Veteran politician Samura Kamara, seen as a shrewd political operator, hopes to take up the mantle of outgoing president Ernest Bai Koroma as his hand-picked successor. An economist by training, the 66-year-old Kamara was foreign minister until last year when he stepped down to pursue the presidency under the flag of the ruling All Peoples’ Congress (APC), an announcement that came as a surprise to many.
A Catholic in a majority Muslim nation, Kamara is known for his ready smile and dislike of confrontation, in sharp contrast to his opposition opponent Julius Maada Bio, a tough-talking former junta boss. Koroma has campaigned by Kamara’s side, presenting him as the continuity candidate in the poor West African country that has suffered a civil war and an Ebola crisis. “I am (Koroma’s) biggest legacy. I need to sustain what he has achieved and build on it,” Kamara said at one campaign rally.
Kamara, who has also served as finance minister, has offered a vision for his presidency that adheres closely to the APC’s platform of the last decade. He has told voters the party will do more to improve roads, electricity, healthcare and education, and said he hoped to tackle corruption. But he has faced his own graft allegations from his years in government, earning the nickname “Mr 10 Percent” for the cut he allegedly commanded from contractors.